Consol Energy Center - Pittsburgh, PA.
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The Pittsburgh Power (1-3) welcome the Orlando Predators (0-4) to Pittsburgh for a rematch of their season opener. It's not quite a rematch though as that game was marred by a labor dispute and played with a bunch of replacement players. Neither team got a chance to see where they stood which may be a reason why neither team has won since.
Pittsburgh opted to release starting quarterback Kyle Rowley and kicker Taylor Rowan after that game and while most of the players have signed back on, the loss of a quarterback looms large in this league. Andrico Hines has shown some talent but the team continues to be plagued by turnovers this year. Last week against Iowa, they had five more and lost 55-42.
Pittsburgh has to improve their turnover margin in a hurry to try and climb back in the division race. Orlando has to start winning period. This is definitely a must-win game for both teams, so the pressure is on.
Both teams rank high on defense. Orlando enters the game with the 2nd best scoring defense in the league. They only allow 44.8 PPG. They also rank 4th in total defense at 272 yards per game. Pittsburgh is 2nd in total defense at 241.5 YPG, but they do give up more points. They rank 11th in the league with 57 PPG allowed.
P.J. Berry finally had his breakout game for 2012 last week, catching 9 passes for 110 yards and adding 173 yards and a score on his kickoff returns. He did his damage in the first half against Iowa but was held in check in the second half. The Power will try to keep him involved in the game for all four quarters in this one.
Pittsburgh will also try to get fullback Tyre Young back into the mix. The 3rd leading rusher in the AFL only got the rock once last week. He's proven early on this year to be a strong weapon on offense so look for him to be a focal point on offense against Orlando.
WR Lonnell DeWalt has been suspended by the team for undisclosed reasons. From the vibes I get he won't be back with the Power this year and his loss as a goal line threat looms large.
Orlando's offense has been bogged down all season, not just the first game of the year. Quarterback Collin Drafts has been very inconsistent all year, completing only 57.1% of his passes (89/156) for 933 yards. He has 15 TD's and 6 interceptions on the year.
Perhaps the return of AFL veteran WR Bobby Sippio could provide a boost to their fortunes. He has been out all season with an injury but was recently assigned back to the roster and might be ready to see some action this week against Pittsburgh. If not look for Antoine "T.T." Tolliver and Nate Forse, a Uniontown and California university of Pennsylvania graduate, to continue to receive the bulk of Drafts' passes.
Keys for Orlando
- Force turnovers and stops early on. If the Predators can get some early turnovers they'll take out the Pittsburgh crowd and flip homefield advantage.
- Take advantage of Power mistakes. Pittsburgh is a -7 on the year in turnover margin. Orlando isn't much better at -5. Orlando needs to make Pittsburgh pay for each mistake.
- Get the W no matter what. If Orlando falls to 0-5, the odds of a complete turnaround to make the playoffs won't be pretty. No one is running away with the South at this point but even still, an 0-5 hole will be almost impossible to climb out of.
Keys for Pittsburgh
- Play a complete game. This team looks strong in the first half of just about every game but then finds ways to fall apart in the second half. Coach Siegfried mentioned after the Iowa loss that this team doesn't respond well to adversity. They have to improve soon or the season could fall apart.
- Play mistake free. As I mentioned above, the Power are 16th in the league in turnover margin. They need to get back to basics and play smarter football. They consistently beat themselves with interceptions and fumbles.
- Win for the home crowd. Pittsburgh is 0-2 at Consol Energy Center this year, and a win for the fans is a must. Like Orlando, a loss would put Pittsburgh 3-4 games behind in the division race already. A 2-3 record would be a lot more manageable with 4 division games still remaining.
Seeing how the defenses rank, and how both offenses have struggled, I don't think I am going out on a limb by predicting a low scoring affair. I think Pittsburgh has more talent on the board it's just a matter of putting it all together.
I think the homefield advantage should help Pittsburgh as they finally get another win.